This is a recurring question asked by many beginners: how long does it takes to be a good surfer?
Unfortunately, there is no precise answer for that. It depends on individuals, the place you are used to surf, your physical background, your free time and your motivation.
Defining good surfer
First, I think it’s important to define what is a good surfer. In my opinion, you start to be a good surfer when:
- You master all the functional maneuvers instinctively: bottom turn, cutback, floaters and so on. You don’t think about your next move, it’s automatic.
- You can surf good whether it’s small or a bit more pumping while still having speed and fun whatever the board you are using
- You can surf most types/shapes of boards within a short time adjustment
- You start to have/have a little bit of style, or at least you don’t look too ugly
- The crowd is less a problem for you as you get the waves you want
- You are comfortable in hollow/shallow conditions
- You don’t question your level that much before heading to a new spot, and are not a danger to yourself and others since a long time
Before heading to any expected duration, let’s detail the factors that will determine your learning curve.
Frequency of waves and quality
That is one of the most (if not the most) important point. In other words, how often your local break or area is working. If you live in a place where waves are fickle, even if you are available often and in good physical condition, you won’t surf much. Or you will need to travel.
On another hand, if your area receives good swell almost every day, your availability will match a lot easier with mother nature whims.
The quality of the waves around you will also play a big part. If you live close to a point break /reef break (or any long, predictable wave) working often, you can improve fast. On contrary, if your local breaks are mushy beach breaks, it will take longer. The simple reason is that it’s a lot harder to choose a proper wave on a beach break, and that the paddle out can be tricky as well. But it teaches you other things such as paddling power, duck diving skills and perseverance!
How often you can go
Equally important as the previous point. Becoming a good surfer takes a lot of time. A LOT. The more of your spare time you can spend in the water, the quicker you will make progress. And of course, this will increase your count rate a lot.
The difference of progression between the people who can surf several times a week and the ones who can only few times per year is huge.
So, if you want to become a good surfer, you need to find a career path that can fit these criteria. It’s not easy as it sounds, but we will try to give you a few examples in a next article. Another option is of course to forget the simple idea of career, or be a student.
You don’t necessarily need to be an athlete to surf. But being a good swimmer will make your progresses a lot faster. That is one of the closest thing you can compare with surfing.
You want to become a good surfer quickly? Start by becoming a good swimmer, which will make you a good paddler. A good paddler can go out quicker, catch more waves, so has more opportunities to get better than a bad swimmer. If you did not read it yet, check our article about it here.
Your experience with ocean
If you already practice a sport in the ocean, you probably feel a lot more comfortable than the average person. It will help you as you already know about the dynamics and are more confident. Some water sports appear to be very complementary in some areas, especially windsurf/kitesurf or stand up paddle for example. When the conditions are not optimal for surfing, you can switch to one of them. And when the wind drops and there is swell, well you know what to do.
Use of appropriate equipment
Do we really need to repeat that again? Of course, we do! Choose carefully your board!! Your learning curve and duration depends on it A LOT! Check our previous article here about that matter if you are in doubt.
Not the most important point but of course if you are already athletic, that’s better. On the other hand, if your lifestyle mainly consists of drinking beers, smoking cigarettes and sleep late every day, you will obviously not be as fresh as the ones who stay healthy. Many sessions happen in the morning, so if you want to be up, you also need to work a bit on your lifestyle.
Stamina demanding sport will help, as well as all the ones that require heavy breathing. That includes running, cycling, climbing, ball games and so on. If you can get your body used to the external tempatures (especially if you surf in winter) that’s even better.
So how long will you need?
You have all my previous point?
A kid for instance, meaning that you have no job, a lot of free time, your brain is a sponge and you are not scared for your life yet. You live in Bali or close to a perfect Californian/ Aussie point break that works at least several times a week. You are ready to take any opportunity to surf, as all your friends surf anyway (or all your family).
Good news for you, you can probably reach most of these points in less than 5 years depending on your dedication. It goes without saying that you are clearly a lucky bastard.
You have a few of my previous points (50%)
Let’s say you can surf on some week-ends/weeks, or that your break is not that often working but you can get there when it is. The point is you have a bit of time you can use for surfing, but it won’t be every day either. It’s not so bad, but don’t expect to reach all the points before 10 years… one step at a time. At least you can surf, and not everyone can say the same.
You have none of these points?
So, you live in an area with no sea. You have no free time You don’t swim nor have ocean experience. Your physical condition is the one of a 60 years old smoker and on the rare occasions you can surf you always use a wrong board? Good luck for you my friend, becoming a good surfer will be veryyy long. But keep it up, with regular trips, healthy routine and dedication nothing is impossible. Be patient.
These points are entirely subjective and not equally important. Some basic maneuvers can get done within a (quite) shorter time, while other characteristics such as style, speed and confidence will probably take longer. If you have other suggestions, let us know in the comments below!